Sunday, October 17, 2010

Election Day Coming

Watching the TV ads I’ve learned that one candidate is damned because he’s earned money in his lifetime (how dare he), another is a liar, a third is unprincipled, another didn’t anticipate the economic collapse, another is incapable because he’s a friend of Obama, and another because he supported Bush.

Like little children in a playground shouting match grown-up people are saying just about anything that comes into their head these days.  It doesn’t have to be thoughtful or principled but it has to be well executed and hard hitting.

The problem is that whatever they’re slinging is starting to pile up and the smell throughout America is nauseating. 

I’d love to see an ad that has a candidate looking into the camera saying something like this.

 “I’m running for ______________________.  I have an opponent.  He/she is a good person.  The truth is that he/she will probably do a good job if elected.  The reality is that we’re basically on the same page on a whole lot of issues but not all.  We have different perspectives specifically on education, health care, and immigration. Most everything else we’re on the same page.  On some of the big issues neither of us has the one right answer. We have opinions and convictions but both our positions probably need to be adjusted. There’s a lot we don’t understand.  Adjustments come by listening.  That’s what I promise to do.  If you vote for me I’ll listen.  I’ll listen to you and I’ll listen to others in the legislative body. I’ll listen to the experts in the field and to those who will be impacted by our policies.  As I listen I might change my mind on some things.  When I do I’ll tell you about it.  I want you to know that I’ll value each and every vote I cast.  Without sacrificing my family or my health I’ll work hard.  Wherever I can I’ll try to build a bridge to the other party and give credit where credit is due.  I’ll be cautious about spending your tax money but I will have to vote to spend it. That’s one promise I can make.   Some of you won’t like my votes.  Tell me why.  And I’ll tell you why I felt compelled to vote the way I did.  Even if you don’t like my reasoning you'll know exactly where I stand.

So, I want your vote.  Look carefully at my position papers and those of my opponent.  If you think he/she is the best candidate vote that way.  But don’t just vote for me and against him/her because of your habit of always voting for either a Democrat or Republican.  That doesn’t work very well anymore.  Vote for the person you have the deepest conviction about.  As I said, my opponent is a good person.  I’m proud to be in the political arena with someone of his/her character. 

See you on election day."

Would love to see something like that.  Honesty and authenticity instead of half-truth and innuendo.   OK, I know, I know …I’m an idealist.  In a perfect world principled people with good ideas and great character run campaigns that inspire and inform.  The trouble is that we live in an imperfect world and our political arenas are not always populated by smart people guided by heartfelt principles. And so mud slinging and truth twisting because an accepted norm.  And that troubles me.  For when it becomes an acceptable campaign tactic it sends a message to one and all that we’re settling and giving a thumbs up to sleaze.  Ugh.

I’m realizing more and more that somehow, someway those of us who care have to speak up and ask for ‘better’ from politicians.  The free swinging anger of the ‘new’ right wing and the patronizing, sardonic attitude of the left are all part of the same problem.  We don’t know how to ‘say what we mean’ in ways that are both clear and civilized. And that scares me.  We know how to mock, shout, grimace, tell lies, manipulate facts, and create a firestorm of public opinion.  I’m thinking that civilized folks can do better than that. 

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